Air Force (3-4, 1-3) will host the Boise State Broncos (5-2, 3-1) tomorrow at 7 pm ET // 5 pm MT, in the final matchup between Brett Rypien and the Falcons.
Air Force is coming off their first conference win of the season, a 41-35 shootout win over the UNLV Rebels in Vegas, while the Broncos are on a two game winning streak after blowing out Colorado State 56-28.
Boise State is ranked 29th in S&P+ overall with the 22nd ranked offense and 44th ranked defense. Air Force, meanwhile, is 93rd overall, and 107th on offense and 73rd on defense. It’s not exactly a surprise that Boise State is the heavy favorite in this game. Vegas puts the line at Boise State -9.5, while S&P+ favors the Broncos by 11.0 points with a 75% win probability.
But the Falcons have won three of the last four games in this match up and will feel confident of pulling off the upset yet again. It will be a tough game, but with some luck Air Force may sneak away with a victory.
Boise State Offense
It seems like Brett Rypien has been at Boise State forever, but he will be coming down with his Bronco teammates to face the Falcons one last time. Air Force won the first two games against Boise State with Rypien at the helm. They were able to get pressure in his face and force the senior QB to try and beat them on his own. He couldn’t. He completed less than 50% of his passes in each contest. Both games were Air Force victories.
However, last season, a more season and experienced Rypien went 16-for-22 for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a Boise State rout, 44-19.
The formula for this game for the Air Force defense will be the same as it has been for the last three contests; Take away the running game, and force Brett Rypien to beat you with his arm.
The Falcons should hopefully be able to do the first part. The Broncos rank 9th in the conference in rushing, and gain a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. Senior power-back Alexander Mattison has gotten the lion’s share of the carries this season, rushing for 498 yards and 7 TDs, but at only 3.9 yards per carry. WR John Hightower can’t be forgotten by Air Force. He has 163 yards rushing on 8 carries this season with two touchdowns. The Falcons must remain disciplined on jet sweeps and not let the Broncos get easy yards on the ground.
I feel confident the Falcons can hold back the Broncos on the ground. The Air Force rush defense is ranked 11th in S&P+. However, it’s the passing game that worries me.
The Falcons are ranked 127th out of 130 teams in passing defense per S&P yet again (Gavin may not like it but I do, dang it!). Brett Rypien is the active leader in passing yards in college football and is off to the best start of his career (2166 yards, 18 TDs, 5 INT, 69.1% comp.).
The Falcons do have the two wins over Rypien, but those were in his first two seasons. He is a more seasoned and experienced player now. Air Force will try to put pressure on him and force him into mistakes, but the question is, will he make them now in his senior season?
Boise State Defense
The Broncos have a solid defense, but they have one huge problem area, giving up explosive plays, especially against the run. One mark against Boise State as well is the leading tackler on defense is safety Kekoa Nawahine, and it’s never ideal to have a safety as the leading tacker. Air Force can have some success against this defense front.
If Air Force keeps chipping away at the Broncos defense with the triple-option, they will find big plays. They will need another great performance out of Isaiah Sanders, especially in the passing game, in order to keep Boise State honest.
I expect to see quite a few short drives for the Falcons in this game, but also a few huge drives with some huge plays. Air Force will have to run the clock when they can to keep the ball away from a good Bronco offense, but I think the opportunities to do so will be limited.
The game will come down to one thing, can Air Force stop Brett Rypien and the Boise State passing attack. Air Force has struggled mightily in pass defense this season and will need their best performance of the year to stand a chance.
The Falcons should be able to limit the Broncos rushing attack. Air Force will find some points with explosive plays on offense. Force Rypien into some mistakes, win the turnover battle and this could be an upset win.
However with Rypien in his senior season, I don’t think Air Force can do enough in pass defense to overcome a very good Boise State team. I think Boise State unfortunately comes away with this game 34-24.